Let’s get one thing out of the way right away: Thunderbitch is one of the greatest band names in history. It’s not just that it sounds badass (though it does, profoundly so), but because it surgically zeroes in on exactly what you’re going to get when you fire up the band’s self-released debut (which you can stream for free right here).
Thunderbitch is the side project of Alabama Shakes singer/guitarist/golden goddess Brittany Howard, formed a few years ago with members of Nashville roots acts Fly Golden Eagle and Clear Plastic Masks, and though the ensemble can be sprawling, this is Howard’s show. As a member of Alabama Shakes, Howard’s formidable presence helps guide her band’s quest to mutate and re-shape the blues into all manner of new forms—it’s as much a warped garage science experiment as it is a band, particularly on their most recent album Sound & Color, released earlier this year. That excellent collection showed off a group of technicians and songsmiths playing with expectations and using a patient hand to guide the songs into uncharted territory. It’s not as hedonistically satisfying as its predecessor, but its commitment to detail and craft has made it one of the stickier and most satisfying releases of 2015.
Of course, as Thunderbitch’s self-titled debut reminds us, Howard knows how to cut loose too. The 10 tracks on Thunderbitch are raucously low-fi bursts of roots rock, glammy punk, and good old fashioned talking blues. Like Miley Cyrus’ just-released new album, Thunderbitch is an outlet for Howard’s unbridled id: She’s basking in her badness (“Wild Child”), hellbent on having a good time (“Eastside Party”), and rejecting everything else in her life in favor of indulging in the devil’s music (“I Don’t Care,” “I Just Wanna Rock N Roll,” “My Baby Is My Guitar”). Her bandmates fill in the gaps between her righteous yawps with gleefully pounded keyboards, scuzzy guitars, and a steady rhythmic thump that is downright Jurassic.
Thunderbitch is almost alarmingly straightforward, especially in contrast to the more studious Sound & Color, but it can’t be dismissed as simple. In fact, it marks an important peak in Howard’s development as a star: For the first time, she has managed to capture her inimitable stage presence on record. With this set of scrappy, rapturous barn jams, she has captured lightning in a bottle (or, more accurately, thunder in a digital file).
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